'The captain is back' - Martino revels in Puyol return

The Camp Nou boss also explained Pedro's squad absence, denied requesting that Argentina rest Lionel Messi and revealed his long-term Neymar plan
Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino has heralded the imminent return of club captain Carles Puyol following a lengthy absence through injury.

After a fortnight off due to the international break, Barca are gearing up for their clash with Sevilla on Saturday and, although the 35-year-old is not expected to feature, Martino revealed that the veteran could make his comeback in a week's time.

"Puyol's return means we have the centre-back we all wanted - I'm very happy about it," the former Paraguay coach told reporters on Friday. "The captain is back.

"He is at the end of his recovery, he could be back in full training ahead of next week's game against Real Sociedad."

Martino also explained is decision to drop Pedro from the squad and insisted that Lionel Messi and Neymar are both set to play against Sevilla despite a hefty chunk of travelling during the international window.

"Pedro has played two games with Spain, that's why he's rested this time," he continued. "He's fine now, but we need him for the next nine or ten months.

"Messi and Neymar made long trips but they have trained very well - we'll see how they feel tomorrow and see if they can complete the game."

The 50-year-old also denied claims he had asked the Argentine Football Association not to call up Lionel Messi for their final two qualifying games.

"We didn't ask the Argentina football federation not to call up Messi next time," he said. "I wouldn't do anything like that, I've been a national team coach myself. It's been a while now that Messi has been as good for Argentina as he is for Barca. He's decisive for us and for them.

"Neymar's style can invite the opponent to use violence," added Martino in response to suggestions that the Brazil international was on the end of some heavy challenges in his country's clash with Portugal in midweek.

"I told him he should keep on playing that way, though, as they'll respect him more. I don't want Neymar to play one good game, one good season or one good World Cup - I want for him to have a long career."

The Camp Nou coach also defended his decision to branch out the Catalans' style under his tutelage as he does not want his team to become too easy to read.

"We don't want to change the style, just to avoid becoming predictable and that the opponent knows we have alternatives."

Barca face Sevilla at Camp Nou on Saturday evening.